Comprehensive fee to see 4-percent increase

In an all-campus e-mail sent on Monday, President Falk announced a 4-percent increase in the College’s comprehensive fee for the 2012-13 academic year. The comprehensive fee, which includes tuition, room, board, activities and residential housing fees, will now total $56,770.

This year’s fee increase of 4 percent is lower than last year’s increase of 4.2 percent. According to Provost Will Dudley ’89, the increase in the comprehensive fee will provide additional revenue totaling approximately $2.5 million, contributing to the College’s total annual budget of $170 million.

For the past six years, increases in the comprehensive fee have been on a downward trajectory. Since the 2006-07 academic year, the College’s comprehensive fee has seen increases of 5.8, 5.8, 5.3, 4.9, 4.9 and 4.2 percent, respectively.

According to Falk’s e-mail, the 4-percent increase falls in the middle of fee increases at peer institutions.

Dudley said the tuition policy for students studying away will remain the same. Students who do not receive financial aid will continue to pay the charges associated with their particular programs as well as a $1500 one-time study-away fee to the College. Students who receive financial aid will pay the amount the Office of Financial Aid determines their families can afford.

Dudley explained that the College’s funding stems from four main sources: endowment earnings, which comprise 47 percent of the College’s funding; student fees, which comprise 37 percent; gifts, which comprise 10 percent; and miscellaneous income, which comprises 6 percent of funding.

In the all-campus e-mail, Falk explained that “the amount taken from the endowment is set by a longstanding formula that ensures that the endowment will be able to support future students as much as it does current ones.”

Dudley explained that the comprehensive fee is set at a level sufficient to provide the portion of the annual budget that is not covered by revenues from the endowment, gifts or miscellaneous income. “If the fee were lower, we would have to make spending cuts that would diminish the excellence of a Williams education,” he said. Dudley also noted that during the financial crisis, when the endowment dropped precipitously, the budget for services and programs at the College saw a 20-percent cut and the budget for maintenance of on-campus facilities saw a 40-percent reduction.

“Any further cuts would require making very difficult choices about the number and quality of our curricular and extracurricular offerings,” Dudley said.

He also underscored the importance of maintaining the College’s endowment over the long term. “To ensure that the quality of a Williams education remains as high in the future as it is today, we must maintain the real value of the endowment,” Dudley said. “The amount we can withdraw from the endowment in any given year is thus limited to approximately 4.5 percent of its total value. At its current market value, this provides approximately $80 million per year, which pays for nearly half of the College’s annual budget.”

Despite this year’s increase in the comprehensive fee, Dudley noted that the fee is significantly less than the annual per-student cost of an education at the College, which is over $82,000.

“The revenues from the endowment and gifts enable us to set the comprehensive fee well below the annual per-student cost of a Williams education,” Dudley said, adding that even families that will pay the full comprehensive fee of $56,770 in the 2012-13 year will technically receive a subsidy of $25,000 on the actual cost of education for that year.

Dudley emphasized that the College’s other sources of revenue permit need-blind admissions. “[The revenue from the endowment and gifts] also allows us to admit students based on their talents rather than their ability to pay and to meet the full demonstrated need of every student,” he said.